Good news for electric car owners as proposals have been made that could give them priority at traffic lights and exempt from one-way systems.
‘Clean Air Zones’ could be introduced that will allow this with five UK cities being considered for the programme to be introduced by 2020. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants Southampton, Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds and Derby, interestingly not including London.
The zones are a response to the British Supreme Court ruling that ordered the government to take action to meet European clean-air standards.
Electric cars could also have priority at stoplights as well as one-way systems. A government spokesman said: “It may be that in a one-way system they have an extra lane in which electric vehicles can go against the traffic or that they have filter lanes at traffic lights.”
Restrictions would be placed on older, polluting commercial vehicles, the department warned.
Even though councils already have powers to tackle air pollution, Defra state that more needs to be done to bring down nitrogen dioxide levels.
Created to reduce pollution in city centres and encourage the replacement of old, polluting vehicles with modern, cleaner vehicles, the Clean Air Zones are intended to create “healthier environments.”
Therese Coffey, environment minister, said: “We need to tackle air pollution and creating Clean Air Zones will improve the quality of life for people who live and work in our own towns and cities, both now and in the future.”
Alan Andrews, a lawyer for environmental law group ClientEarth which brought the Supreme Court action, said the plan was “too little, too late.”
“Requiring just five cities in the UK to introduce clean air zones doesn’t solve a national problem which causes thousands of premature deaths. Other local authorities won’t introduce voluntary clean air zones unless they are made to, or paid to,” he said.
However not everyone thinks EVs should get perks.
British Automobile Association president Edmund King said: “Incentives for electric vehicles such as bus lanes or preferential parking are good short term catalysts, but when EVs become mainstream congestion will still be the big issue. We are still somewhat baffled as to how EVs can realistically be given priority at traffic lights.”
King noted that eight in ten of drivers support actions that improve air quality, but also claims that drivers see the proposals as money-making schemes by the government.
The number of ultra-low emission vehicles – including plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars – registered in the UK has increased by 250 per cent in two years and the Government has also announced a £35million investment to encourage more low-emissions vehicle ownership.
It’s hoped that the schemes will greatly encourage the take-up of electric vehicles.